The infamous tent-city jail that was run by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is being transformed into a rehabilitation center for people dealing with substance abuse and opioid addiction, the AZCentral reports.
According to an announcement from Sheriff Paul Penzone (the Democrat who defeated Arpaio’s reelection bid in 2016), the recently closed facility will house classrooms and sleeping space, allowing an already existing substance abuse program to expand by 50 percent.
“We want to ensure that they have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail,” Penzone told reporters this Friday. “I hope that all of those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.”
The announcement comes less than a week after the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office shut down the facility which was highly criticized for its oppressive practices and high costs, costing taxpayers $8.6 million last year.
Looking ahead, Penzone on Friday focused on mental-health and substance-abuse issues that exacerbate recidivism rates and drive costs.
He stressed that half — about 50,000 — of the people booked into Maricopa County jails annually previously have spent time in custody. Using the Tent City facility as housing and classroom space will boost the number of medium- and high-risk offenders who can participate in the Mosaic rehabilitation program to 770 from 500, a sizable increase that ultimately could decrease crime rates.
“This is not a gift,” Penzone said. “This is an opportunity.”
Penzone says he expects the new facility to be fully populated in a little over a month. He hopes that the transformation will counter the negative history that Arpaio’s jail fostered.
“We must function with an ultimate goal,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to change behavior and to return individuals to society where they can be productive.”
Featured image via YouTube